What Are Passkeys & How to Use Them on Mac Ventura and Sonoma

Tips • July 20, 2023

MacOS Ventura, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16 introduce a groundbreaking feature known as Apple Passkeys – a cutting-edge alternative to passwords. Aimed at delivering a password-less sign-in experience that is both secure and convenient, this article explores the concept of passkeys, their functionality, and the potential they hold as the future of authentication for websites and applications.

What exactly are Apple Passkeys?

Present on macOS Ventura, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16, as well as the upcoming Sonoma, iOS 17, and iPadOS 17, Apple Passkeys offer a password replacement for logging into websites and services using your Apple devices. Unlike traditional passwords that involve various characters, passkeys employ cryptographic techniques and leverage biometrics like Touch ID or Face ID to ensure a highly secure online account.

The uniqueness of passkeys lies in their ability to be backed up, synced, and end-to-end encrypted. By saving a passkey for a site or service, you can use it across other devices associated with your Apple ID, synced via iCloud Keychain.

Furthermore, due to cross-platform compatibility among Apple, Google, and Microsoft, passkeys can be used across different devices seamlessly.

This informative video from the FIDO Alliance demonstrates the practical workings of passkeys:

Reasons to embrace Passkeys

Embracing Apple Passkeys offers several compelling advantages:

No Password Creation: Bid farewell to the need for complex passwords and the troubles of memorization, as passkeys eliminate this tedious process.

Effortless Log-in: Passkeys simplify the sign-in process by relying on biometrics, ensuring quick and direct access without the hassle of password resets.

Enhanced Security: With end-to-end encryption and confinement to specific apps or websites, passkeys become impervious to cyberattacks and guessing attempts, providing heightened security.

Compatible Mac devices for Apple Passkeys

While specific Mac models that support passkeys remain undisclosed, devices equipped with Touch ID are essential for utilizing Apple Passkeys. Recent MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and desktop Macs featuring an Apple keyboard with Touch ID will be compatible with this security feature.

Additionally, since Passkeys are introduced with macOS Ventura, earlier versions of macOS Monterey and below will not support this functionality.

How to turn on iCloud Keychain in macOS Ventura/Sonoma

To enable Passkeys functionality, ensure that iCloud Passwords & Keychain is activated, and the app or website in use supports WebAuthn. To enable iCloud & Keychain on macOS:

  1. Navigate to Apple menu > System Preferences > Apple ID (or System Settings and then click your name).
  2. Select iCloud.
  3. Turn on Passwords & Keychain.

* For iOS/iPadOS, go to your device Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > Passwords & Accounts > iCloud Keychain.

Remember, disabling iCloud Keychain will store password, passkey, and credit card information locally on the device. If you sign out of iCloud with Keychain activated, you will be asked whether to keep or delete this data.

How to setting up Apple Passkeys

When you encounter an app or website supporting the FIDO Standard and wish to create an account, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the registration button.
  2. Enter your login information, such as a username, email address, or Apple ID.
  3. Authenticate using Touch or Face ID to create your passkeys.
  4. A notification will prompt you to use the saved passkey for future sign-ins to the website or app.
  5. Click Continue.

Subsequently, your Mac, iPhone, and iPad will mandate biometric authentication (Face ID or Touch ID) for access whenever you visit the website or use the app.

It is crucial to note that Apple emphasizes Passkeys are stored exclusively on your local device and not on any server, adding an extra layer of security.

RELATED: Best Password Managers for iPhone and iPad

Advantages and disadvantages of passkeys

Passkeys bring forth numerous advantages akin to strong passwords managed through biometrics, ensuring a seamless user experience. Users readily adopt this technology once they grasp its value, freeing themselves from the burden of password requirements and the need to memorize multiple passwords. With syncability and support from major operating system makers under the FIDO standard, passkeys promise a harmonious cross-platform future, shielding against phishing attempts by preventing fake websites from accepting passkeys.

However, some limitations persist. Websites still allow logins using passkeys or traditional username/password combinations, leaving the latter susceptible to hacking and phishing. Moreover, getting locked out of iCloud or similar accounts could deny access to passkeys, necessitating universal portability. Additionally, businesses grapple with passkeys’ personal nature, posing challenges in managing employee access without IT control. Yet, passkeys hold promise as an exceptional improvement to existing authentication methods, potentially freeing users from the shackles of password management as they gradually pave the way for the future.

The future is passkeys

Beneath the simplicity of passkeys lies a sophisticated system that combines ease of use with the utmost security. Each login is uniquely stored and verified by both your device and the website, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access the site with your device.